Two Queer Eye BooksWhen I bought the Queer Eye book because I’d been to Tan’s book signing and had bought Karamo and Jonathan’s books and would buy a book about Antoni but not more recipes and there is NO BOOK by Bobby … I remembered that I had the original book from the first iteration of the Fab Five, and thought it would be a nice project to read them together. Would the text be exactly the same, just with new faces? (no). Would I see a difference? (yes). The it was time – with a big TBR, the new book was taking up two places on the shelf, as it’s a big book and went through the back and front rows. So I dusted off my old book and I read the newer one first and here are my reviews!

Anton Porowski, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk and Karamo Brown – “Queer Eye: Love Yourself. Love Your Life”

(15 April 2020, published 2018)

The reboot book is so much more personal than the original. It starts off with a history of how the first series came about (including the shocking fact that it was illegal to use the word “queer” in the name of a business in New York State at the time!) and a comparison of the first iteration and now: then, the Fab Five flew in, did the makeover and flew out again; now we get backstories and share a lot more. I particularly liked the moments when they intersected with the original show: Bobby got fired for altering time sheets after staying in his store all night to set it up for a visit from the original Fab Five and getting them shown as leaving earlier, and Antoni was mentored by Ted!

In the  main part of the book we get a section about each of the Fab Five with their story and achievements before their speciality sections. So it’s a lot more about their personalities and histories than about the advice, although that is still there in easily digestible form. They pop up in each other’s sections and are allowed to be their own individual selves (in the recipe section, which includes one from each of them, Jonathan’s recipe isn’t written out formally like the others because that’s not how he does it).

They thank their writer, Monica Corcoran Harel, who is also name-checked on the title page, and there are tips for women in general and specific tips for trans women and men woven naturally through the text – this of course reflects the inclusion of all genders in these series and the dropping of “for the straight guy” in the title. A lovely positive book with lots of good hints.

Ted Allen, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez – “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”

(bought around 2004-5, published 2004)

Assuming much less knowledge and with pretty well no personal information, this book is concerned specifically with getting (or keeping) a lady for a pretty much unreconstructed male. This does reflect the mission of the original series, and it also reflects through the book the job the Fab Five had, which has pretty much melted away now, of convincing their heroes and readers that it was OK to be gay or to hang out with gay guys, and that reading books and using moisturiser wouldn’t make you gay or have gay men hitting on you (honestly, that is there). It does feel, then, that things have moved on positively, although I do realise everything isn’t perfect by a long way.

There are twice the pages of recipes and basic stuff to do with hygiene and courtesy. No, the text isn’t the same in all the sections, although Thom and Bobby have almost identical approaches to designing for someone, and Antoni and Ted both encourage us to include a pair of tongs in our essential kitchen equipment.

Jai’s cultural tips are a bit alarming in some cases – yes, they are more concerned with going out to cultural events, where Karamo deals more with your personal culture and trying all sorts of new things, and is sometimes too concerned with staging an intervention with a lost relative than with encouraging people to go to the opera. But joking about stalking women and finding out what they like from their friends and the exhortation to go to museums because “chicks – especially hot foreign ones” do, as well as encouraging husbands to help with what their wives think are their jobs (cleaning, looking after the kids, um …) was a bit startling to read!

They thank their writer, Adam Sachs, although he’s not mentioned on the title page, and it’s still a positive read, if a bit dated now.

That was a fun and interesting pairing to do. Do you watch the new iteration and did you watch the old one? Who’s your favourite?

I’ve read a Dean Street Press book which I will be reviewing next and “Into the Tangled Bank” by Lev Parikian, which I have reviewed for Shiny New Books but will share about soon, and I’m currently finishing Jacky Klein’s book on Grayson Perry and reading Books 9 and 10 in my 20 Books of Summer. What are you up to?